US law firm Foley & Lardner and two of its partners have been ordered to pay $267,000 (£147,600) for helping a property developer file a "frivolous lawsuit" against critics of a controversial luxury development.
The US district court's Judge Manuel Real sanctioned the Milwaukee firm and San Diego partners Wayne Rosenbaum and Suzanne Washington on 15 August, labelling the lawsuit as frivolous. Foley had brought a racketeering lawsuit against Friends of Fawnskin executive director Sandy Steers and three Forest Service employees on behalf of developer Irving Okovita for their role in fighting Okovita's proposed Marina Point condominium development by California's Big Bear Lake.
It is believed to be the first time the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organisations Act (Rico) had been used against Forest Service workers. However, Judge Real threw out the suit in March.
Non-profit Oakland-based firm the First Amendment Project, representing Steers, argued that the lawsuit was aimed at intimidating Steers, who claimed she had only been trying to make Okovita follow the law.
Foley said in a statement that the firm disagreed with Judge Real's decision and expected to file an appeal.